The Belfast Agreement 15 Years On: Challenges and Opportunities ..

A new Assembly is to be set up in Northern Ireland as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

So I’m pleased to say that 15 years on from the Belfast Agreement …

However, there is absolutely no doubt that, since that time, the eyes have been taken off the ball of some of the fundamental issues. We are going to need some significant reforms if we are to restore public trust in the ability of the Assembly and the Executive to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland. Part of that problem is because of the watering down of the fundamental principles of the Good Friday Agreement that we have seen on a number of occasions over the last 17 years. For example, the removed the issue of the First and deputy being elected jointly. It may only have been optics, but it was significant optics that they were seen to have the confidence of the House. The fact that, in those early days, and sat beside each other at on alternate sides of the Chamber was optics, but it was significant optics, and the watering down at St Andrews by the and Sinn Féin and the two Governments took away a lot of that positive engagement and left us in difficulties there.

Belfast Agreement on Twitter: "Getting some moral …

There is a certain irony that, almost as we approach the end of this Assembly term, we are debating the issue of the fundamental principles of the Good Friday Agreement, the values and principles that are supposed to underpin everything that we do but which have been sadly lacking for some time. I think that there are still a dozen of us, including three or four who are in the Chamber at the moment, who were here in when we first came into and remember that as a time of hope, a time of optimism and a time of belief that things were really changing. It was a time when we were actually looking at three sets of relationships that defined the people of Northern Ireland and these islands and how we managed together.

In the midst of the current political uncertainty and the fall of these institutions, we have hanging over all of us the growing of Brexit, which will disproportionately hit the . Wales has a plan, and Scotland has a plan, but this Executive have been found wanting once again. The borders of the past will be constructed and erected across border counties, and this will impact on travel, trade and investment. It will be the people of the North who will suffer and not the fat cats who advocated a "Leave" vote in the first place. That is an indictment of this institution, and it is also an indictment on the Good Friday Agreement, which calls for cross-border collaboration. If article 50 is triggered next month, we will have no seat at the table. We will have no one advocating the best interests of the people of the North.


Good Friday Agreement Values and Principles: 23 Jan …

If you look at another section of society, whether in the Chamber or outside it, and you believe that they are your lesser, what chance have we for our society? You referred to the fact that, at the age of nine, you learned about the Good Friday Agreement in school or that it was signed then. At the age of nine I was burying two of my cousins and an uncle who were shot dead by state forces operating under the guise of the . You can tell me that they were a few bad apples — they were bad apples — but there were members of the and the in that gang. That was the now infamous Glenanne gang. You said that you had googled names of people who were released from prison. I can google the names of members of that gang. None of them — not a single one of them — went to prison for dozens of murders in the north Armagh area.

Good Friday Agreement Values and Principles

There may or may not be talks in the future, because it is clear that relationships have broken down. However, talks will be required at some stage in the future. will be the foundation on which we build a society. Anyone who has it in their head that they are going to take apart the Good Friday Agreement is sorely mistaken. The only way any of us, if re-elected, will be standing in this Chamber or in a future Executive will be on the principles of power-sharing, respect and mutual understanding. That is the reality. I will to Mr Stalford quickly.

On This Day: Good Friday Agreement Signed in …

I start my speech how I ended my last one in the Assembly on 19 December — that infamous day that, in my opinion, was part of a series of events that brought this Assembly to an end. I said on that occasion that if the party opposite did not work the Office of the First and deputy as a joint office, I doubted that there would be an office. The attitude displayed since has confirmed to me that the party opposite, and others, believe they are almost returning to a unionist state — a state where the Good Friday Agreement does not exist or matter and where power-sharing arrangements are an inconvenience rather than a legislative and political responsibility on all parties. Mr Stalford said during his speech — I will not quote him, because I cannot remember his exact terms — that there is no going back. He is absolutely right: there is no going back. The only way government will operate in this state is under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Northern Ireland, the Belfast Agreement, and the …

It is clear to me that the political parties presently in control of our Executive, and, therefore, our country, do not know how to govern. They do not understand that mutual respect and equality was at the heart of the Belfast Agreement. As we have heard today, they work together because they have to, not because they want to. That lets down the Belfast Agreement; you have to be in there and want to govern. We want to be the largest unionist party. We want to work with the willing —